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With Faith And Love Draw Near

September 27, 2010
de: Kirche «Maria Obchut» in Düsseldorf ru:Цер...

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I attended an early morning Liturgy at my parish this morning. One of the things I am grateful for, is the midweek liturgy, Orthros and Vespers services. Since I work all weekend, with no chance of changing my schedule in the near future, I am stoked that my parish gives me the opportunity to attend the Divine Liturgy.

I am still a catechumen, and am still not yet able to receive the Body, Blood, Soul and Divinity of Christ. Even though this is the case, I love to be in the service, participating as I far as I am able to, and learning from the prayers of the Church.

In the book I am reading as a text for my catechism (The Mystery Of Faith by Bishop Hilarion Alfeyev), Fr Patrick was discussing the section on the Eucharist with me. In the book, Bishop Hilarion makes the point that the Eucharist isn’t just “one of the sacraments”, it is the sacrament of sacraments. It is the means by which Christ infuses us with His life, thereby making theosis possible. It is a mystery that we are never worthy to participate in, but are always invited to by the grace and mercy of our Savior.

One of the things that Fr Patrick mentioned to me, was that he has written a practical guide to the Liturgy. In discussing the Eucharist, he wanted to speak on the Liturgy as well. He spoke to me about preparing to receive the Body and Blood of Christ, as an Orthodox Christian. I knew about the fasting, pre-communion prayers after Vespers, and the Prayers during the Liturgy. What I did not know was that there are prayers said the night before, and the morning of Liturgy, that are to be said in private, but can be done corporately. He pointed them out in the prayer book, and so I made a note to myself to say them Saturday evening, and Sunday morning. I have been following the fasting rule, so as to find a means of participating in the life of my parish and the Church at large, even though I have not been fully received. Praying the pre-communion prayers would be a chance to take it yet deeper into my heart and life.

I wasn’t sure what to expect, but I knew that it would be beneficial to my spiritual formation. Before I ever got to the first prayer, I had multiple distractions from my family. I figured it was a test. I lit my candles in my prayer-corner, venerated the icons, and began the prayers. What I found was a deep sense of penitence that I have not felt since Lent. I knew that I would not be partaking of the Body and Blood at the end of the prayers, but I asked God to work the necessary change in me to prepare me to be received. The rest of my evening, even though I was celebrating my birthday by going out to dinner with my wife and a couple friends, I found my mind reflecting on those prayers the whole night. Next morning, I had more family distractions, but had just enough time to do the prayers before I had to leave with my two older girls for Liturgy. By the time I got to the last half of the prayer of St Symeon, I was choking up. It was amazing to be grasped by the reality of being entirely unworthy of the Holy Mysteries, yet the grace of God condescends to my weakness.

During the Liturgy, at the time when we say the pre-communion prayers of the Liturgy, I tried to soak in the meaning the words, “Thou hast come into the world to save sinners, of whom I am chief…” Even though it is a bit hard to concentrate when my two girls begin to get antsy, I tried to continue to focus on the prayers; “… but like the thief on the cross will I confess Thee, ‘Lord, remember me in your kingdom’.” And after these prayers and hymns are offered, then comes the culminating moment of the entire Liturgy, “In the fear of God, with faith and love, draw near.” then we sing the hymn, asking God to receive us, even as we are receiving are receiving Him. I say we, even though I am not among those who go forward.

O for the day that I will hear those wonderful words, “The servant of the Lord, Jeremiah. Receive the Body and Blood of Christ.”

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